Giovanni de Macque

Little is known about the childhood of Jean de Macque, who left his birthplace of Valenciennes at a young age to become a choirboy in Vienna. At the end of 1563, he was moved into a Jesuit college after his voice broke. About 1574, Basilica della Santissima Annunziata Maggiore
Basilica della Santissima Annunziata Maggiore
Wikimedia Commons
he moved to Rome as organist and composer, and two years later published his first book of madrigals out of Venice under his newly italianized name Giovanni de Macque. By 1585, he had again moved to Naples to take up employment under Fabrizio Gesualdo. In 1590, he became organist at the Santa Casa dell’Annunziata in Naples, and four years later became organist to the Spanish viceroy. In 1599, he became maestro di capella for the Chapel Royal.

Music in Naples was an interesting conflation of Spanish, Italian and Franco–Flemish influences. It was the birthplace of song forms like the villanella and dances like the tarantella. It was also a centre for keyboard music, upon which Macque was to have a strong influence despite his enormous output of madrigals. Indeed, he is considered by some as the father of the so–called Neapolitan keyboard school.

Macque’s music for keyboard after arriving in Naples shows a receptivity to experimentation with chromaticism and idiomatic figuration. In works like the Consonanze stravaganti he showed a penchant not only for unusual chord successions, but for various degrees of unprepared dissonance apparently cultivated for its own sake.


In others such as the Capriccio sopra re fa mi sol the same unexpected chord successions occur, along with written–out ornaments of an improvisational character that don’t shy away from chromaticism.


Among Macque’s pupils in Naples were Giovanni Maria Trabaci and Ascanio Mayone, both of whom held posts of one kind or another — organist or maestro di capella — in Neapolitan venues like Santissima Annunziata or the vice–regal Chapel Royal. They too produced a respectable corpus of sacred vocal music, but are also remembered for their keyboard works, ranging from the stricter ricercar to the showy toccata featuring improvisational passages and chromatic speculation. All three would have an effect on the work of one Girolamo Frescobaldi who, at the turn of the century, was a young man of seventeen in Ferrara, already a keyboard prodigy.

⇐ Naples | Carlo Gesualdo ⇒

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